The Price of Pleasure
The eBook explosion in the past couple of years has set the cat among the pigeons when it comes to the cost of an eBook. Rather than squabble over the cost how about we consider what price we put pleasure?
Paul and I went through the dilemma of what price to set our anthology, Chinese Whisperings: The Red Book in its electronic form. As it was the first edition of the anthology to come out (the paperback will be released mid-March). I started my search with Kindle, using ‘anthology’ and ‘short stories’ as search criteria. There seemed to be few anthologies listed and none in the vague ball park of ours. There didn’t seem to be a template for us to compare and contrast price-wise, so I looked at several other publishers creating anthologies similar to ours but they were not offering their books in an electronic form.
What I did readily identify, as I got lost in the Amazon/Kindle electronic miasma was the number of books listed at $3.99 and the fact that my time and effort, along with Paul’s and the other eight writers we’d worked with, was worth more than $3.99. It seemed like highway robbery.
There was a certain amount of debate on the price of eBooks last April when a group of Kindle users began to tag books priced over $10 in an effort to try and cap eBooks at US$9.99. It is well known though, that Amazon’s electronic sales are heavily subsidised by the sale of physical books – thus they can keep the prices low on eBooks. But are they creating an atmosphere of expectation that an eBook should cost considerably less than a physical book? Are they forcing self published authors to lower themselves to this benchmark to even get a shot at sales?
Maybe it is time for readers to have an expectation adjustment.
The same amount of time and effort goes into writing and editing an eBook, as it does a physical book, that’s before you take into consideration typesetting, design and layout. With an eBook you have the added task of creating the final files – in our case we will be offering three different file formats to cater to a growing market of eReaders. Few readers realise most of the cost of a commercially produced book is attributed to sales, marketing, product development and editorial aspects. Then the retailer gets their 40% markup. Sadly little goes to the actual creator – the author.
I love a bargain as much as the next person, but I’m not deluded to the fact that there is an accepted price for most things. A cup of tea or a latte costs a certain amount as does a ticket to the movies, an icecream, a plane fare, dance classes, music CDs, dinner out or computer games. In the most case we’re happy with the purchase price because we derive some manner of pleasure from it.
In Australia coffee lovers are willing to pay up to $5.00 for a fancy coffee – gone in less than fifteen minutes or less – an hourly pleasure rate of $20.00. A movie ticket here ranges in cost from $8.50 through to $20.00 – an hourly pleasure rate of between $4 and $10 for your standard two hour film.
As for books they range in price. The new books I buy are usually between $17.99 and $35.00. I’m yet to clock the time it takes me to read a book, so I have not definitive hourly break down, but I know I’m getting my money’s worth when I choose to spend my leisure and pleasure time between the pages.
In the end Paul and I chose $12.00 as the base sale price of our anthology – the cost of three regular cups of coffee here in Australia (rounded to the nearest whole dollar). Unless you are a speed reader – you’d need more than three cups of coffee to get through The Red Book. It seems like an acceptable compare and contrast for any reader who is willing to argue with about price. It also gives us a sensible pricing gap to work with when it comes to pricing the paperback.
If we set aside debates about the pros and cons of eReaders and electronic books, and the cost of production –a book is a book at the end of the day regardless of whether it appears in pixels or ink. A book, regardless of form, shares characters and stories, a book captures our imagination and our hearts, speeding us to new and exciting places, through the best and worst of human nature. A book at the end of the day is about the pleasure of reading. One could ask – are we paying too little for our books – both physical and electronic?